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Looking for an alternate Batman/Superman team-up to Dawn of Justice? Then look no further than the 2009 novel Enemies & Allies by Kevin J. Anderson. The story centers itself with Superman meeting Batman for the first time. But, it is with a twist: it takes place in the late 1950s amidst the Red Scare, the rise in interest of the UFO phenomena, and nuclear tension. And because of that, the book is an incredibly fun read.
I originally read Enemies & Allies when it first came out, but the recent release of Dawn of Justice (which I haven’t actually seen yet – nor do I have a dire desire to) made me want to revisit it. In it, we find our heroes towards the beginning of their careers, trying to find their places in their costumed identities. Batman is still considered a criminal by the Gotham Police Department, and people are openly skeptical if Superman really is an alien from another planet.
Meanwhile, evil businessman Lex Luthor is conspiring with rogue elements of Soviet Russia to push the world into an even heightened state of fear and paranoia where he will come out on top. Not surprisingly, his plan indirectly involves Superman and Batman’s alter ego of Bruce Wayne – ultimately bringing the two heroes together for the first time.
What I liked about Enemies & Allies is that it really takes its time to develop the relationship between Batman and Superman. The two are not the quickest of friends considering their different methods and the uncertainty they have about each other. This is a common trope of the many retellings of the first Batman/Superman meeting, but it works well here. Much of the book keeps these two characters apart from one another. They weave in and out of each other’s story but are mostly doing their own thing (until the last third where all the plot threads start to converge).
The reason why this works is that it gives time for both Batman and Superman to consider the other and gradually develop an understanding and respect for one another. It doesn’t go the easy knee-jerk route a writer might having of them teaming for the entire book without any development of them becoming a team.
What separates this story from the other Batman/Superman first-meetings is that it places it squarely during the height of the Cold War. It gives it a certain flavor and style that makes it stand apart. Placing it in and fully utilizing the 1950s setting is a brilliant move. Using real world history in a Batman/Superman story kind of gives it a more naturalistic feel to it than one might get from a story set in the present day. It is this novel’s retro setting is the “hook” and it works incredibly well.
Author Kevin J. Anderson has a very light, breezy feel to his writing. It moves quickly and one can probably move through the book at a fast pace. I don’t want to oversell the book. Enemies & Allies is not a piece of “high art”, but it isn’t meant to be. It is a real fun read – good for summertime. I totally recommend it.